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India's ocean? Maldives doesn't agree and the island nation's government has ruled out any Indian role, or that of any other country for that matter, in resolving the political crisis that has gripped it, according to reports.
In an interview, Maldives Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed said the political crisis was an "internal affair" and a "domestic issue", the Hindustan Times reported on Thursday. He was responding to a question on whether India or other nations could help in setting up a dialogue between President Abdulla Yameen's government and the Opposition. Stating that Maldives was "fully capable and equipped" to solve its domestic issues on its own, Saeed said that the island nation was an independent country that has its own constitutions and institutions.
Saeed, according to the national daily, was among the three special envoys President Yameen had sent to China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia in a bid to lobby for support after the Yameen's regime imposed emergency on February 5.
The minister responded to questions regarding India's concerns over Beijing's growing influence and presence in Maldives by saying that China was a "major economic power" and so, it was "no surprise" that its investments had spread into neighbouring states in the continent and the larger world, the report said, adding that Saeed described China's growing presence in the Indian Ocean region as a "reality" everyone could see.
Regarding the free trade agreement (FTA) signed between Maldives and China last year, Saeed, according to the report, said that his country had not invented free trade. He cited examples such as the Saarc free trade area and added that Maldives had approached Japan, the US and EU for FTAs too.
For India, Saeed's message was ostensibly one of friendship. Saying that Maldives' relationship with India spanned 52 years, Saeed reportedly described the latter as "our nearest and dearest and oldest partner" and called for dialogue and communication between the two nations. According to the report, the minister said that India and the Maldives had remained in contact.
On the other hand, the alliance of Opposition parties in the Maldives has appealed to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to mediate a dialogue between them and Yameen's regime. The Opposition alliance wants the UN to step in to ensure credibility in resolving the Indian Ocean nation's political turmoil.
In a letter to the UN chief, the alliance, led by former president Mohamed Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party, has expressed concern that the Yameen government's call for all-party talks is an attempt to ease international condemnation over its recent actions and a time-buying tactic.
The request follows Guterres' statement earlier this month reiterating the UN's offer to facilitate an all-party dialogue in finding a solution to the political stalemate.
The military and police in the Maldives continued to manhandle members of parliament (MPs) as two MPs were stopped from entering the Parliament building on Thursday as well. The two injured MPs, Hassan Ali and Abdhullah Mohamed, had to be rushed to the hospital.
"We are deeply concerned that the military and police are still continuing the siege of the Parliament building and the Supreme Court," Spokesperson of Joint Opposition Ahmed Mahloof had told news agency ANI.
Also on Thursday, MP Abdulla Shahid alleged that President Yameen was inciting violence.
On Wednesday, the Maldives military reportedly threw out around 12 MPs from the Joint Opposition from the Parliament building.
The Maldives, which has seen several political crises since the ouster of its first democratically-elected president Mohamed Nasheed in 2012, plunged into chaos recently when the Supreme Court there ordered the release of nine imprisoned opposition politicians, maintaining that their trials were "politically motivated and flawed".
The government on February 5 refused to comply with the court's order and declared a 15-day state of emergency and within hours, the security forces had stormed the court premises and arrested two judges, including the chief justice. On February 6, Maldives' Supreme court revoked the order to release nine high-profile political prisoners.